AIG CEO Robert Benmosche has a bone to pick with the public.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Benmosche said that public anger over his company’s decision to give out $450 million in bonuses after it received $173.3 billion in government loans was “just as bad” as actual lynch mobs in the Deep South.
The quote was not included in the Wall Street Journal’s print article, but in a subsequent MoneyBeat blog post, according to Business Insider. Benmosche said:
“The uproar over bonuses ‘was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
Last year, the AIG CEO told the New York that AIG deserved a thank you from the government for surviving the bailout. Benmosche said that only 10 percent of AIG employees were responsible for the bad bets that led to the financial collapse, and other employees had nothing to do with them, and thus should not have been punished, the Atlantic Wire reports.
In fact, “we wouldn’t be here today had they not stayed and accepted… dramatically reduced pay,” Benmosche said. “They really contributed an enormous amount [to AIG’s survival] and proved to the world they are good people. It is a shame we put them through that.”
Benmosche’s comparison to historical crimes is not the first to be made by Wall Street’s one percent.
“I was in an off-the record meeting with top Wall Street folks where similar comparisons to Nazi Germany were tossed around,” Ezra Klein of the Washington Post said.
In 2010 and 2011, members of the one percent had plenty to say about the public outrage. Supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis was quoted saying:
“Taxes are going to go up regardless. What I’m afraid of is, we shouldn’t punish any one group. Whether we’re punishing people who are wealthy. New York is for everybody; it’s for the poor, it’s for the middle-class, it’s for the wealthy. We can’t punish any one group and chase them away. We – I mean, Hitler punished the Jews. We can’t have punishing the ‘2 percent group’ right now.”
Sources: The Atlantic Wire, MoneyBeat, Business Insider, Washington Post